The two major players in UK cable TV have launched video-on-demand services.

NTL and Telewest have thrown down the gauntlet to Rupert Murdoch's VOD service Sky Plus, a situation bringing deep joy to Telewest ceo Eric Tveter. He says : "It allows us to demonstrate a clear competitive advantage over Sky for the first time in many years."

Tveter is confident the company's £20 million (£37m, €28m) investment in the service - which offers 24 hour rental of top movies from the likes of Sony, Walt Disney and Miramax, and the launch of a personal video player - will lure viewers both from terrestrial and satellite TV.

In addition to movies, NTL's £40m rollout offers children's shows, adult films, music video and concerts plus a 'pick of the week' service which allows viewers to catch up with TV shows they might have missed.

NTL says its new service allows programs to be downloaded immediately and then played like a DVD with pause, rewind and fast forward functions.

The move by the cable companies will, without doubt, impact on video rental stores. Adds Tveter: "Video-on-demand is better than having a video store in your living room and is more convenient."

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff